Tell Your Own Story
My Nana’s Voice by Alicia McMahonMake Your Submission to Writing & Me
I was delighted I was asked to do this piece for Writing & Me as I don’t think there is a lot of guidance out there to support up and coming writers. Honestly, I had no idea what struggles, and hurdles came with not only writing, but finishing editing and publishing my book as well. This entire process from the initial notion to the day it was published (September 2018) took me seven years.
I decided to write a memoir, My Nana’s Voice ~ An Irish girls’ journey from Maiden to Mother to Crone. I felt the need to share my story for one reason, and that was to help anyone who finds themselves in an abusive situation. I knew if I could write a book, anyone can. I am not schooled in the traditional literary sense and quite frankly, I was not a huge book reader either. But I knew I had to share my story. The funny thing about writing your own story is that it forces you to process your life and digest feelings that you may not have processed during that time. I found this to be extremely therapeutic. Even with the scary parts of my life! Having to explain my feelings so the reader can understand it, forced me to relive those situations and process them. It allowed me to identify how I really felt and unbeknownst to myself at the time, this turns into strength and subsequently confidence.
Once I decided to write my story, I committed to it. My first piece of advice to you is: you will never have a book until you start writing. Stop over analyzing it – just start it. For me, I wrote down the chapters in life from the earliest memories and put it in chronological order. Then I took it one chapter at a time and elaborated on the chapter title for example Chapter 2 – Growing up in Foynes and Shanagolden. I wrote down my obvious memories and then expanded on them and so on. After a while I found myself getting distracted very easily and not being able to focus on my writing. So I had to take time out of myself and focus on my book. Between raising my girls and working full time I decided to go up to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park Colorado by myself and spend the night. I requested to stay in the same room as Stephen King, where wrote the book “The Shining” and just went to town writing on my laptop. I could always tell when I wrote too late at night as the bottle of wine diminished, and the tapping of the keys got faster and faster. I called it diarrhea of the fingers, because the tone of my words and spelling mistakes changed after said bottle of wine. It was hilarious actually.
I got most of the content and rough draft finished after 4 years. After that came the editing process, a time I wish I could have done things differently. I spent way too much time trying to do this myself. How do I know what stories to keep and what stories not to? How do I transition from one chapter to another? Do I keep it in chronological order, or do I break it up into sections? These were all things I did not know the answer to. I had to separate myself from this process and bring in a professional that I found on Upwork.com. I had wasted over 2 years trying to edit it myself. Remember, a professional editor is there to bring your writing and messing into focus and give guidance and feedback. That saved my keister. I feel like you need a high-level opinion once you finish the first manuscript and that will give you direction. I got great constructive feedback like: You lost me here… there are too many people in this chapter. You are saying “really” to many times. This chapter makes no sense you could do without keeping that one. And You have to describe surroundings more, the reader needs to feel like they are looking through your eyes. All of this helped me tremendously. I was able to trim the fat and develop a flow to my story.
After the content editing, I hired a professional literary editor grammar etc. This was worth every penny knowing it was done professionally. After that was done, I tried to shop it to literary agents and that took about a year of writing query letters and begging for someone to read my work and approve me to get published. It was so discouraging… Then I decide to just self-publish. This was a game changer.
I ended up buying my ISBN # from the BookPatch.com and self-published on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. I set up the payment structure pretty easily too. I also had to format the manuscript for Kindle, and I found a service that did it for a very reasonable price on ebookpbook.com. Then I needed to find a graphic designer to design the cover of the book. I found this site called Fivver.com and it is an amazing platform. You have professionals bid for your work and they will send you samples and for your endorsement. If I had known all of these services were easily retained, I would have published a couple of years earlier. Now I was in control and I was not waiting for anybody’s approval and it felt great! Kindle direct Publishing was one of the easiest process of publishing. The only advice I would give there is make sure your manuscript is perfect before you publish. I found a couple of errors that I had to correct and re upload to the site. Other than that, is was a pretty straight forward and painless.
On the cover of my book sits a spiraling Celtic symbol, “The Triskle.”
This Symbol evokes the Druidic Threefold Mother Goddess, it represents the stages in a woman’s life, which all derive from one center: It is known as The Maiden, The Mother and The Crone.
My Crone voice has miraculously guided me throughout my life’s journey.
On that journey, over two continents, I have found myself in scary and life-wrenching situations over which I have had no control. And in turn, having had to make numerous life-changing decisions based upon these situations, this center is where I try to find insight.
I had something deep inside me driving me to write my story. Not sure why, but I have learned through the years that I have to listen to that inner voice; some people call it intuition, some call it a gut feeling, I call it my Crone voice.
I consider myself a normal person, with what I feel, are good morals and values just trying to make it through this journey we call life. I truly try to live righteously and be a better person every day. I am a mother of two astounding young women, Seánalee and Brennalynn. They too have served as my guides time and again. As such, this is our Journey.
A wise man once said:
“Writing a memoir is like preparing yourself to go to confession.” ~ Frank McCourt.
So here I go… In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit it has been 22 years since my last confession.
(c) Alicia McMahon
About My Nana’s Voice: An Irish Girls’ Journey from Maiden to Mother to Crone:
Protagonist and first-person narrator Alicia McMahon begins her memoir later in her life with a description of her vision to produce a tribute book for her ailing Nana Murphy. Her Nana still lived in the village she grew up in, Foynes, County Limerick, Ireland. This leads to a very poignant conversation between Alicia and her Nana a few months later. Alicia then explains how life was growing up in a little parish in Ireland and shares her stories from hardships to shenanigans. When Alicia is eighteen years old, she feels compelled to leave her motherland to find work and brings us on her journey to the United States. Once in the U.S., she shares the terrifying situations she experiences as a young mother of two and how her Crone Voice has guided her throughout tough circumstances in her life. Alicia’s story is unusual in that, at one point in time, she went from being homeless in a battered women’s shelter with her two young daughters to working directly on Bill Gates personal CEO Summit, all within a short period of time. Throughout her journey, she helps readers comprehend how she developed her own understanding of intuition (she calls it her Crone Voice) and how that has aided her throughout her life. At the end of each chapter, Alicia shares a pertinent quote that reflects her strength and thoughts about that time in her life. After raising her two daughters (Seanalee and Brennalynn) into adulthood, Alicia now finds herself in an emotional quandary.
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